Financial planning is the process of identifying financial goals, resources available to reach those goals, and identifying whether those resources will be enough for a client to reach his/her financial goals. If current resources are not yet adequate, it is important to clarify what it will take in terms of additional future savings and investment to reach the stated goals.
Since our firm is a fee-only firm, clients can rest assured that we offer objective advice with the client’s interest placed first. We feel this is a fundamental element of the client-advisor relationship. The costs for financial planning are based upon an hourly rate which is fully disclosed in a written engagement agreement.
Major areas of financial planning include (but are not limited to):
- Retirement Planning. Clients usually need answers to questions like: “Will we be able to retire at age 62? 65? What income can we expect with our current level of savings? What additional savings should we consider if we want the income level we desire? If we can’t make our goal, what does that mean for our retirement?” We help clients answer these questions.
- Tax Planning. Income taxes can be costly and complicated. Some financial strategies may not be appropriate due to income tax reasons, which vary with each client. What might appear to be a good idea may have tax costs that could make a strategy inappropriate. Additionally, unique tax savings strategies may be available to the client. We help identify tax savings opportunities and identify potential pitfalls to avoid.
- College Savings. The cost of a higher education is expected to keep increasing over time. There are more alternative ways to save for education than ever. Some make more sense than others. Pre-paid tuition? Section 529 College Savings Plan? We help explain alternatives available to the client and offer advice as to what might be most suitable to the client.
- Investment Advice. You may be considering an investment opportunity but are unsure how to evaluate the merits of the proposal. You may be wondering which investment alternatives offered within your 401(k) plan are the best for you--or which of those investments would be most appropriate given your investments outside the retirement plan. Additionally, clients may be the recipients of an inheritance and are concerned about making a mistake when investing on their own without advice. More potential client situations requiring investment advice are described on our Hourly Consulting page.
- Estate Planning. This is the process of engaging in strategies to ensure that no or minimal estate taxes are paid at death (maximizing the amounts left to surviving spouses and other beneficiaries) and ensuring that estate assets are distributed in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. That planning generally must be done before we are deceased! While we are not attorneys and do not draft legal documents, we do recognize problems and opportunities and can know when a situation requires a referral to a qualified estate planning attorney. We are able to educate clients on the potential issues in preparation for formulating a strategy with a qualified attorney.
Insurance is certainly part of financial planning. Unfortunately, as we are not licensed insurance brokers, under Washington State law (where our office is physically located) we are prohibited from offering hourly advice. We must refer clients with identified insurance needs to the qualified insurance agents we know and trust.
Steps in the process
- First we meet with the client to help identify your goals and objectives: what is it exactly (or generally, as the case may be) you wish to experience in the future?
- Next we identify the resources available to achieve the goals and objectives. We have forms available which help gather your personal financial information.
- We then consider the alternatives available and identify strategies that are most suitable to the client.
- We make specific, written recommendations to the client and discuss the step by step process to make the changes recommended, as appropriate.
- We modify the approach as necessary to suit the situation.
- We review the progress towards the goal.
To get started, call our office to set up an initial appointment. It is important that both the client and the advisor are comfortable with the prospects of working together. We offer a free first meeting for the purpose of getting acquainted.
To prepare for your appointment, try to define what areas you want help with. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? What are your greatest areas of concern?
As mentioned, services are provided in accordance with a written agreement signed by both the advisor and the client.
Bring in recent account statements for all your financial accounts whether retirement accounts or other investment accounts. It would be helpful to bring in a copy of your most recent tax return.
We offer forms to help you gather information for the financial planning process.